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UMN declares Juneteenth official holiday

The move comes nearly two years after Juneteenth became a federal holiday.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

The University of Minnesota announced Monday Juneteenth will be an observed holiday systemwide starting this year. 

Adding Juneteenth to the University’s list of annually-observed holidays means the University will implement reduced operations for the day, canceling classes and only requiring “essential employees” to work. This year’s Juneteenth commemoration will be held on Monday, June 19, according to an email sent to students, staff and faculty. 

While it was not signed into law as a federal holiday until 2021, Juneteenth has been celebrated since June 19, 1865, after federal troops arrived in Texas to inform enslaved people of the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery about two years after the proclamation was signed.

“Juneteenth is part of a long tradition of Freedom Day celebrations in the U.S. commemorating significant events in African American history,” Keith Mayes, a professor in the African American & African Studies department, said in the email. 

The University will hold its second annual Juneteenth celebration, The Art of Freedom, on Saturday, June 17. The Black Student Union has previously hosted Juneteenth events for students and alumni

The University’s announcement comes nearly two years after President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday in June 2021 and about one month after Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law as a state holiday. The University also agreed to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for union members in December

In 2022, the Faculty Senate voted to cancel classes in recognition of Juneteenth and the University allowed staff and faculty to take the day off as a floating holiday if they wanted.  

According to previous University statements, the University did not declare Juneteenth a recognized holiday in 2021 because Biden’s announcement came too close to the holiday’s date. Human resources emailed staff and faculty in 2021 to “fully expect that next year this will be a recognized holiday.” The University later said this did not happen because it often takes about two years to add a new holiday. 

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